Convention and Visitor Industry continues to grow
The hospitality industry is a major player in the overall health of the statewide and local economies, and the growth of that industry shows no signs of slowing down. According to data prepared by Dean Runyan Associates for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, hospitality continues to be the third-largest industry in Oklahoma and has a significant impact on the local economy.
"We are seeing decades of investment in Oklahoma City’s quality of life pay off.”
--Natalie Shirley, president and CEO of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and vice chair of convention and visitor development for the Chamber
In 2016, the industry generated $8.6 billion in travel-spending revenue statewide and $120 million in state tax revenue. In the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the travel industry provides more than 32,798 jobs, with $747 million in payroll. The industry also generates $100 million in local tax receipts, dollars that help fund important city services, infrastructure improvements and quality-of-life projects.
“We are seeing decades of investment in Oklahoma City’s quality of life pay off,” said Natalie Shirley, president and CEO of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and vice chair of convention and visitor development for the Chamber. “Tourism is big business in Oklahoma City. Thanks to plans for continued investment in our facilities and the dedication of our attractions, we expect Oklahoma City’s appeal as a destination to grow.”
Beyond providing an increase in sales tax collections, a healthy hospitality industry also has a positive impact on Oklahoma City’s national perception. According to research done by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, tourism marketing has a halo effect on economic growth. People exposed to tourism advertising were more likely to start a career, launch a business or choose to live in the state. Hosting meetings and events in Oklahoma City also exposes first-time visitors to the area’s renaissance, making them more likely to return.
With multiple new facilities planned for the next few years and attraction improvements underway or already completed, Oklahoma City will have an increased ability to attract more conventions and events. Through the MAPS 3 program, the Oklahoma State Fair Park recently added the state-of-the-art Bennett Event Center and made other improvements to support its year-round event schedule, including many of the horse shows that make Oklahoma City the Horse Show Capital of the World. The Oklahoma City Council also recently opened bids for a $21 million expansion of the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium, the venue that will host the Women’s College World Series until 2035. Plans for improvements call for an additional deck of seating and other improvements to the existing facility.
In addition, exciting new facilities will begin to serve the convention and visitor market in the next two years. The MAPS 3-funded Oklahoma City Convention Center will feature 200,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and 45,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space which will allow Oklahoma City to compete for 80 percent or more of the events held in the United States. The adjacent convention center headquarters hotel, operated by Omni Hotels & Resorts, will add approximately 50,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space. The nearby Scissortail Park and the connectivity provided by the Oklahoma City Streetcar will provide benefits for Oklahoma City’s visitors and residents alike.